Morale is mysterious and intangible like the wind. You can feel the effects, but the contributing factors aren’t always obvious.
When morale is good, you can feel it – everything flows better. Your team has more fun working; there is a surge in creativity, energy, and productivity. The bonus – a better bottom line!
When morale is poor, you can also feel it – work becomes frustrating and hard! There is a lag in energy which negatively effects work – both the quality and quantity.
Creating an atmosphere in which your people thrive and are able to accomplish the mission and goals of the organization – that’s your job as the leader. You hold the key to creating an environment that has your people jazzed about coming to work every day and contributing wholeheartedly. And when your people are happy, not only will you achieve your goals, you will also be more effective and profitable. That’s motivating!
The sobering thing…morale might be suffering and you might not even know it! I work with leaders all the time who are unaware of the ways they are discouraging their people, lowering morale, and negatively impacting the bottom line.
Consider a few of the costs of low morale:
- High turnover which is expensive and further hurts morale
- Low productivity
- Limited creativity and innovation
- Increased absenteeism
- Unnecessary conflict
- Complaining and negativity – that’s contagious causing morale to suffer even more!
Here’s the deal: improving morale never hurts! Even if you think morale is good, it can be better. As the leader, you are in a position to make changes that will positively impact the enthusiasm, confidence, and productivity of your people in ways that no one else can! It takes two things: refining your communication skills and confronting your fears.
Could you be communicating in ways that negatively affect morale? Consider these communication mistakes that are sure to lower morale:
1. Creating Communication Voids
They say that “No news is good news” but that’s not always true! In fact, most of the time, no news is interpreted as negative. Talk about putting a damper on morale! Don’t let more than 24 hours go by without responding to e-mails, even if it is just to let others know that you are unable to respond or that you are still working on whatever you’ve been discussing.
And remember, even though the bulk of communication is done these days is via email and text, sometimes the best way to communicate is in person or by making a phone call. Some things just don’t need to be put in writing! Other times, a quick phone call would actually resolve things more expediently and without the risk of being misinterpreted as so much can be mistakenly read into an email or text.
Timely communication also contributes to improving morale. After all, when you habitually communicate things last minute – that’s a real downer too.
2. Communicating in a “One Size Fits All”
When clothes shopping, I see the “one size fits all” tags more and more, and while the clothing tagged this way may fit many people – they certainly don’t fit ALL!
Communication is like that too – there is no one way to communicate that works for “all.” To successfully communicate, you must recognize that not everyone is like you and learn to communicate with the people on your team in a way that works for them. You must adapt. You can learn more about how to do that here.
3. Conveying a Fuzzy Vision
The vision of an organization is frequently posted prominently on the wall, yet that’s not enough! Your people need to know how what they do matters and contributes to that vison. Your ability to communicate the vision in a relevant, clear, and compelling way sets your people up for success. It gives them direction and a target.
Fuzzy is awesome when it comes to peaches and bears. Fuzzy is not so awesome when it comes to vision. There’s nothing less motivating than a fuzzy vision! Share the vision often! Discuss it, and make sure it’s clear how every aspect of what your organization is doing is tied to that vision.
4. Assuming They Already Know
Most people are eager to accomplish the goals you have in mind for them and they are willing to make changes if they know what they are. They are also willing to do more, lots more, of what they are doing right if they know what’s working. The problem is that too often leaders neglect to set clear expectations followed up by the essential feedback. I hear things like “it’s in the job description” or “they should already know” as reasons for not communicating what they want. Other times, the leader themselves is not clear on what they are looking for until they realize what their people have done is not what they wanted.
I can’t stress enough how critical setting expectations and feedback are! And don’t forget that feedback is just as much about acknowledging what your people are doing well. It’s not just about pointing out the areas they need to grow in. If this is an area of weakness for you, check out the tips here.
5. Failing to Follow Up
The lack of follow up, or inconsistent follow up, is another aspect of communication that leaders tend to struggle with that negatively influences morale. It sends the message that your people aren’t important, that you don’t value them.
Without a system to help you stay on top of follow up and make it a priority, I guarantee the urgent needs of the day will keep follow up from happening. You may want to create a tickler file, calendar reminders, or use a follow up program like FollowUp.cc.
6. Being Stingy With Positive Communication
The #1 reason that people leave their jobs: bad bosses. People want to work for someone who sees their strengths, actively utilizes and helps to further develop their strengths, while appreciating and valuing the work that they do. That means that you have to be engaged enough to know what the strengths of your people and the positive ways it is benefiting your organization. Consistently voicing genuine appreciation, praise, and saying thank you, will positively impact morale! And don’t be afraid to go old school and write a handwritten note – you’d be surprised how a small, sincere gesture can boost morale
How has poor communication affected morale in your working world? What’s one area you would like to focus on to improve morale in your circle of influence?
Next week in part 2 – find out the surprising ways your fears are affecting your team’s morale!
© Can Stock Photo / vitalytitov